Hello Kitty Animation Theater Vol. #3 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, August 22, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, June 14, 2005

What They Say
That adventuresome girl, Hello Kitty, returns with more of her friends in updated versions of some classic tales!
Join Hello Kitty as she and Pom Pom Purin, Keroppi, Pekkle and Dear Daniel embark on wonderful adventures and learn many important lessons about life.

The Review!
Hello Kitty and friends return for six more classic tales done in Sanrio style that will likely delight young children.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its English language format. This is the first time that the series has been dubbed by the people at ADV Films so it was interesting to hear previously familiar voices being done by another set of familiar voices but since we were letting our kids watch this we went with the English mix all the way through. The show isn't anything really outstanding when it comes to its audio but it does have a good stereo mix, particularly for the music and opening vocal, that gives it a good warm feeling. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Though listed with numerous copyrights on the package, I believe these are the newest episodes from 2004. The transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Being that it is Hello Kitty, the materials here are very bright and colorful in nature and go for a mix when it comes to the design, where some backgrounds look like they were crayoned while others are full solid feels. Each of them maintains a great solid look to them with no noticeable blocking or pixellation to it. The transfer is also very clean when it comes to areas such as cross coloration and aliasing and is pretty much pristine across the board. The opening and closing segments have their credits translated into English which isn't a surprise but that appears to be the only difference between this and the original.

Going with as cute and colorful an image as possible, a couple of large circles make up the bulk of the cover while the background has all sorts of small colored circles lined up. Inside the two main circles we get the series name and volume number as well as an absolutely adorable picture of Hello Kitty dressed in pink and set next to a castle which plays up the Magical Places subtitle for this volume. The back cover has a few shots from the show and a couple of sentences about the basic idea of the release. The complete listing of episode titles is included as well as a couple of character shots. The discs production information is easy to check out as is the very clearly listed information in the technical grid. The insert for this release is essentially a two sided advertisement for the other Hello Kitty releases.

I was glad to see that this is a kid friendly release in that after the load-up trailers and company logo it went right to the show itself instead of to the menu. The menu layout, which comes up at the end of all the episodes or whenever you key the button for it, is a very basic piece that has a theater stage in all pink with the episode selections in the middle. The bottom set of navigation has things such as the languages and extras, all of which is set to a brief bit of music from the show. Toss in a little bit of animation with some bows and it's a very simple but effective menu. Kids don't care about menus anyway. Access times are nice and fast and the disc did read our players' language presets and played accordingly.

The only extras included are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While my Sanrio phase has long since passed, I can still get a bit of enjoyment out of watching these characters act out some of the classics of children's literature. This release has its pluses in a couple of areas just like the other volumes in that it's the first time it's a bilingual release, which means we get to hear some popular voice actors tackle the roles at long last, as well as the first time that ADV Studios got to handle the dub for it. The result is that both tracks have a lot of great material to them.

This next set of six stories covers a pretty interesting range of fables and stories that have been told multiple times in many different forms over the years. What's been enjoyable about this run of stories is that unlike a lot of more traditional shows done like this, it doesn't keep the focus to just one type of story. This ones gives us the Japanese fables, European fables and others. So we're not just getting say, Hans Christian Anderson style things. The opening one on this volume was a lot of fun to watch as it does the Momotaro tale, a very classic one indeed, but it was the first time my kids had been exposed to it and they had a blast. They've been hearing the same things like Cinderella and others over and over since we began to tell them stories like this but the new ones like Momotaro just seem to excite them more now. This tale is really nicely done here with Hello Kitty arriving in the old couples home as Momotaro and then growing up to set out on a journey to defeat the really evil and ugly looking ogres.

One of the weaker of the tales I hadn't seen before is the Drakestail the Duck one which in its animation just looked like it wasn't as well put together as the other ones, particularly the fox character. But I'm not sure if that's just because it didn't look as smooth and rounded as most of the Sanrio characters typically are. Either way, it's an amusing story just in the idea of Drakestail offering to take everyone on his journey to see the king by asking them to "get small" so he can swallow them and they can ride in his very comfortable stomach…

The last story on this volume is the most cruel however as it's the Little Matchstick Girl with Hello Kitty in that role where she sells matchsticks to try and earn money to live. Like a lot of the previous tales, they don't pull any of the punches here or really water it down all that much so if you know this tale, you know what to expect. As it plays out, yes, Hello Kitty as the little girl does indeed die in the story. What makes it cruel though? It's the last story on the volume so it ends with the death of Hello Kitty. It's a good thing I had the fourth volume handy because my kids were shocked to say the least when it happened and then the credits rolled.

In Summary:
Hello Kitty Animation Theater is essentially more of what we've seen in previous volumes with the range in stories and the surprising unflinching look at them in a few places. The mix of characters from the Sanrio world that's used helps avoid the problem of a HK overdose with her being prominent in each story. Though I do think they were a bit cruel in how they setup this volume, the end result is that sometimes a good shock to kids does wonders and keeps them from the predictable tales they see on most of their shows.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean opening and closing animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: TV Y
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 14.98
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Hello Kitty